Heating and cooling

Many systems for controlling the air quality and temperature in our homes are intertwined. Here is a look at some of the options for efficiently heating, cooling and bringing fresh air into your home.

Design ideas that can help you build a durable, healthy and efficient home
Vancouver's first laneway house under the city's EcoDensity Program © Lanefab Design/Build

The very first thought for efficient home design should always be passive solar. It essentially adds no cost, but has a significant impact on the carbon footprint of your home as well as your quality of life.

A home oriented and designed for passive solar gain is naturally lit, and can easily reduce heating and cooling demands by 25%. Strategic placement of operational windows can help take advantage of prevailing winds for fresh air as well as cooling.

Beyond taking advantage of the sun and wind, modern well-sealed homes require mechanical ventilation systems as well, and of course a heat source.

From an ecological standpoint, electric heat is always under debate to a certain extent. How 'clean' it is depends largely on its source, and if the grid is fed in your region predominantly by heavy polluters such as coal.

The ecological impact of electric heat can be lower in places where the grid is predoninantly fed by hydroelectric projects or other renewable sources. Hydroelectric dams are incredibly destructive during construction, but once finished they are definitely renewable, though still a source of greenhouse gas emissions due to the release of methane.

The ecological impact of heating with biomass fuel (trees, grass, seeds, waste timber) varies depending on the material used, its source, and how efficiently it is burned.

Fossil fuels are the most common global energy source, for all things including heating. They are a major source of pollution during extraction as well as combustion, and we are quickly running out.

It is also worth considering the financial realities of relying on a fossil fuel combustion heat source, as it is a dwindling and finite resource. Prices and availability could be greatly affected in the decades to come.

Whether you heat with electricity or gas, one way to ensure the power you use is renewable is to sign up with Bullfrog Power. Their generators inject 100% green electricity or 100% green natural gas onto the respective energy system to match your consumption. Not only is it a noble undertaking, it earns you points in the LEED home rating system.